Spring Helmet Bazaar


Spring is here, and it's time to clean off your bike, check the tire pressures and hit the road. But how is that helmet of yours? Is it the same one you've had for the last ten years? Maybe it's time for a new one: most helmet manufacturers will tell you they only recommend you use your helmet for five years before replacement, whether it bounces off the pavement or not!

Walking into the motorcycle shop, you'll notice there is now a bewildering array of manufacturers, and some of them make a darn good helmet for under $200. Some of the manufacturers offer much more pricey lids, with the top-of-the line helmets pushing or exceeding the $800 mark.

But does the extra money get you that much extra helmet?

To help you find that out, we sampled nine helmets from six different manufacturers to see what the extra money gets you. How did the cheap stuff do against the luxury brands? Read on...

We didn't intend for this to be a comprehensive shootout between all the helmet makers. Instead, we're giving you a quick sampling of some different helmets so you can see some of the helmets we've been using over the last year in one quick, easy review. Sound good? Let's get started!

 

 

 

KBC TK-77

"Tell you what... if you throw in a helmet, I'll take it home tonight."

It's an amazing value for the price, but there are better values out there.
You get a nice quality finish and Snell approval.
Those are the last words uttered by many TK-77 buyers before they take possession of both a new motorcycle and a new TK-77. It's definitely a budget helmet: MSRP for solid colors is a mere $89.95, $99.95 for the racy paint schemes, and $109.95 for the cool "Devil" scheme we tested here.

So how do they sell a DOT and Snell approved helmet for under 100 bucks? For one, the face shield is secured with baseplates and screws, like the bad old days. It only takes a couple of minutes to remove and replace, but who needs the hassle when there are easier ways to do it? Also, the liner is glued into place- I guess you throw the helmet away when it gets too nasty. The cheekpads are removable for washing or to get the fit perfect with optional sizes.

KBC also saves a bit with a single forehead vent, and the heavy polycarbonate shell also keeps the price affordable for those who just spent every penny of their credit for a new sportbike. Too bad, because they'll need an actual penny to remove the faceshield!

In use, the TK-77 isn't really a bad helmet. It's as quiet as the TK-8, and about the same weight. The venting is minimally effective, but so is the venting on many helmets, even those costing a hundred dollars more. It has the same snap on the end of the chinstrap as the other KBCs and has acceptable fit and finish, especially in this price range.

The TK-77 is a nice helmet for the price, but given the small difference in price between this helmet and other, more feature-rich models from both KBC, Scorpion and other brands, we would spend the extra $20 if it were at all possible.


KBC TK-8

KBC calls this their "mid-level" helmet on their website, but it is a very basic, simple entry-level helmet. It's one of their best selling helmets, and that should come as no surprise as soon as the wearer plops it on his head after relieving himself of $120.

How much would you pay for this helmet?
These vents work well with gloved fingers.
This helmet, like many of the entry-level helmets available today, represents a very good value. Unlike the basic helmet of yesterday, the TK-8 comes in two different solid paint schemes (the "Slick" in four different colors, or the "Fuel" in three, in addition to four solid colors), has effective, nicely-functioning vents, and a visor that is easy to remove and replace.

On the road, the TK-8 is a nice, comfortable helmet, with a "Duralux" hypo-allergenic liner to help stave off itchy-head. The liner is also removable for laundering, which is pretty much a requirement for us: what are you supposed to do with a dirty helmet you can't wash? Throw it away?

The TK-8 is also pretty quiet- Gabe could endure a few miles of freeway riding without his trusty earplugs. It's a bit heavy, but it lacks the clunky, poorly-finished feel that most budget helmets of yesteryear had. Remember those cheap-o Bieffe full-face things for $89 you would buy in the 80's? You'd take the visor off once, then you'd break the little plastic tabs trying to get it back on, so you would have to use ski goggles like a dork. You kids don't know how good you've got it!

It does have a polycarbonate shell, like most helmets in this price range, but it's not too heavy and the TK-8 is a good value: just $119.95 for solid colors or $129.95 for either the Slick graphics or the Fuel graphics scheme that we tested.

Scorpion EXO-400

This face shield is as easy to remove as it is difficult to fog.
When we think of budget helmets in the sub-$150 range we won't be thinking of the Scorpion EXO-400. That's because it should be a more expensive helmet. Our Million Mile Man Pete Brissete declared, "I will boldly state here that the EXO-400 fit me as good as a helmet three times its cost. And that's bold because I've had to compromise my comfort level to some degree with those pricey lids almost no matter which model. The Octane required nothing of me other than to wear it with complete comfort and a secure feeling."

Although the Scorpion isn't quite up to speed in the overall quality department, it's darn close. One flaw is the little breath guard that would pop out of place any time we'd reach in to scratch our nose. We also found the little clip that retains the extra amount of chin strap after you've secured it to be a little cumbersome. The use of a polycarbonate material as opposed to fiberglass, Kevlar or other composite materials used by other brands made the shell a little heavy, but don't be concerned for your safety as it is both DOT and Snell certified.

"I will boldly state here that the EXO-400 fit me as good as a helmet three times its cost."

One of the most amazing features of this hat was the fog-free shield. Despite our best efforts, we could not get it to fog, even in cold, rainy weather. The consumer usually spends an extra $20 for a Fog City anti-fog liner on more expensive helmets to accomplish the same thing. Like the TK-8, Scorpion has even included a removable sweat-wicking and washable liner.

Scorpion has also stepped up the game in budget helmets by way of its quick- release lens system. Within a few tries and a little finessing the first time the lens popped of easily with its SpeedShift™ mechanism. Pete said "It is as good as anything I've used." When you're in the market for a new can on your head go look at all the top shelf stuff then come back down to the budget-minded arena and see that the Scorpion EXO-400 is in the same league.

The Scorpion EXO-400 is available in solid colors for $129.95, or either the Warhawk or Octane graphics schemes for $139.95.

Scorpion EXO-700

These vents work well on both the 400 and the 700.
For those of you who want a lower-priced helmet with the advantages of a lighter, stronger, (but stiffer, which may not be the best thing) laminate-construction outer shell, Scorpion offers the EXO-700, which has similar features to the EXO-400, plus the "Matrix" shell, which is quiet and seems to withstand buffeting pretty well. The chin strap is padded and has a snap to keep it from flapping in the breeze. The SpeedShiftu quick-change system is really trick (similar to that on AGV helmets) and makes changing from the clear to tinted shield a snap without any tools. The shield itself is of high quality, seems to be distortion free, and resists both fogging and scratching. The ventilation system is standard fare for helmets in this price range with adjustable front and rear vents and a tunable flow-through system.

Inside is a very comfortable moisture-absorbing liner which is breathable and comfortable against the skin. The liner is completely removable and washable. The optional custom liner and cheek pad kit ensure that you can dial in a custom fit. A feature that Martin really liked was the breath deflector. This is the first helmet he used with one of these and he found "it really enhances the ability of the shield to resist fogging." He also liked the fit as much as the much smaller-skulled Pete: "The EXO is one of the better fitting helmets I've used right out of the box."

Overall the EXO-700 is pretty close to flawless for what it aspires to be. It's comfy, quiet, has easy to change shields, a high-quality finish, and it vents pretty well. It's not quite on par with either the top-shelf Arai or AGV, but it's functionally close to as good, nearly as comfortable, and costs less than half as much. The Scorpion EXO-700 comes in solid colors for $179.95, or the Fury, Geronimo, or Raider schemes for $199.95.

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